Friends and family of the late Tony Thompson, lead singer of the Waco pop group Hi-Five in the 1990s, shared their memories of him Friday at a headstone installation at his grave at Doris Miller Memorial Park.

Thompson received national attention during his years with Hi-Five, a quintet best known for its No. 1 hits “I Like The Way (The Kissing Game)” and “I Can’t Wait Another Minute.” He later pursued a solo career.

Personal problems and music- industry politics kept him from the fame that many had predicted for his talent.

He died at the age of 31 on June 1, 2007, from inhaling Freon from a Waco apartment air-conditioning unit.

Angela Garcia, his girlfriend of four years at the time of his death, organized Friday’s headstone event. She said it took three years to find the black marble overseas for the stone, design and engrave it, then ship it to Waco.

The 2-by-3-foot stone, laid flat at the grave, has a photo of Thompson engraved in its face.

‘Star in Heaven’

“A Star On Earth, Now a Star in Heaven. The Heavenly Choir now has a new lead singer,” reads the inscription, followed by the Bible verse 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

Thompson’s 18-year-old son, Tevin Thompson, as well as Thompson’s father, Tony, and sisters Tanya Kennedy, Sheila Spratt and Deena “DeDe” Smith, were among the family members at the ceremony.

It was a bittersweet day for Tevin, set to graduate from La Vega High School on Friday night.

Science says a container cannot be empty and full at the same time, but “this is my heart today,” he wrote. His words were read by his mother, Lavonda, who stood beside him.

Marcus Sanders, 36, one of the original Hi-Five members, and Garcia read tributes to Tony Thompson’s voice, talent and impact from such musicians and friends as D’wayne Wiggins of Tony Toni Tone, Damion Hall of Guy, Delious Kennedy of All-4-One and Mr. Al Mac of Troop.

Fellow Hi-Fivers Russell Neal, a financial consultant in New York City, and Treston Irby, who lives in Connecticut, weren’t able to attend, but they sent messages.

Impressive talent

Neal shared how Thompson’s singing ability impressed him when Neal, then 9 and a fan of the group New Edition, heard him at a Waco Convention Center talent show.

“I was blown away. He was better than (New Edition lead singer) Ralph Tresvant,” Neal said. “In my humble opinion, Tony was and is the greatest who ever did it.”

Irby recalled how he and Thompson swapped jackets with their names during an appearance on “The Arsenio Hall Show.”

Julia R. Barrera, an administrator with Pratt & Whitney aircraft manufacturers in San Antonio, served as Hi-Five’s tutor during tours in 1991 and 1992. She shared her memories of Thompson’s love of performing, his curiosity and constant activity.

“It was one of the best times of my life,” she told the audience of about 20 at the cemetery.

Sanders still lives in Waco and works at Powers Industrial.

He brought fellow Hi-Fiver Roderick “Pooh” Clark and his wheelchair to the ceremony.

A 1992 car accident in Miami involving Hi-Five left Clark partially paralyzed and injured three fellow singers.

Not the same

The group never regained the momentum it enjoyed before the accident, as new members joined and original ones departed in the years that followed.

Clark expressed a lingering frustration that local media and Waco never gave credit to Hi-Five or Thompson for the group’s national achievement.

No Waco musician or group has had a No. 1 song on the Billboard music charts since that time.

Proud of roots

“We were all from Waco, and we were proud to let people know that,” he said.

“(Tony) was a great singer and we supported him,” Sanders said.

He added that while Hi-Five’s members were young when fame hit, they wanted others to know that Waco had talent, too.

“We enjoyed letting the people in Waco know that it was possible,” he said.

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